I have been neglecting the collection of beers in my basement. On the road for the last two and a half weeks, I simply haven’t had much time to sample or write. I have some catching up to do. Gotta take one for the cause, you know. Look for a number of tasting note posts in the days and weeks to come.
Tallgrass Brewing Company of Manhattan, Kansas is a relative newcomer to the Minnesota market. This brewery from the tall-grass country held a particular interest to me. I have family in Kansas and spent many a summer vacation there while growing up. It has always been a paradoxical place to me; on the one hand barren, desolate, and boring, and on the other a realm of incredible beauty and childhood adventure (as long as you get off of the interstate). My parents met while attending Kansas State in Manhattan.
Minnesotans’ first opportunity to taste the Tallgrass beers came in June at the St. Paul Summer Beer Fest. I spent a good deal of time talking to they guys from the brewery in their booth and found them to be friendly and passionate. The sample of Oasis that I had on that day piqued my curiosity. I looked forward to the opportunity to try it again in a more controlled setting. Here’s my notes:
Tallgrass Brewing Company, Manhattan, Kansas
Style: Extra or Imperial ESB
Serving Style: 16 oz. Can
Aroma: Malt balanced featuring caramel and biscuit. Light earthy and orange citrus hops. Definitely English in character.
Appearance: Pours with an abundant, creamy, tan head that last long into the glass. Dark amber in color and clear.
Flavor: The flavors initially follow the aroma except that the emphasis is switched from malt to hops. The reported 93 IBUs provide a bracing bitterness that lasts into the finish and beyond, but the bitterness lacks the characteristic crispness of an English ESB. Hop flavors are earthy with hints of orangey citrus. It’s not so balanced to hops that the malt is covered up. Rich caramel, toast, and biscuit malt offer ample support with unexpected notes of roast and chocolate coming at the finish as the beer warms. As with the aroma it has a clear English character. Notes of alcohol are present, perhaps a bit too present. A chalkiness, presumably from water treatment, is also perceptible.
Mouthfeel: Medium body with medium carbonation. Alcohol warming is present.
Overall Impression: A solid Extra ESB, tasty and drinkable. I found the alcohol presence to be a distraction and felt the roasted character was too high. I love the simple caramel malt of classic English bitters. While not a critique of this beer in particular – I would gladly quaff another – I do have philosophical issues with the imperializing of the style. English bitters, standard, best, or extra special, are meant to be session beers. They are flavorful and yet easy to drink. They don’t mess you up too badly, even after several pints. They are perfect beers as they are. Why mess with that?